Northern Sea Wolf plying B.C. Ferries routes this month

The Northern Sea Wolf is undergoing docking trials as B.C. Ferries prepares to resume long-awaited direct summer service between Vancouver Island and the central coast.

The ferry goes into service on May 18 for the final two weeks of its winter connector schedule. On June 3, it begins direct service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola, running until Oct. 10. “It is excitement and relief in equal measure,” B.C. Ferries president Mark Collins said Monday.

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The 246-foot-long Northern Sea Wolf is a former Greek ferry bought for $12.6 million in 2017, with plans to bring it into service in summer 2018. But the ship was not ready in time.

“We underestimated how much work we needed to do,” Collins said.

The final bill was $76 million, but a federal grant brings the total cost to Ferries down to $61 million, he said. The original budget was $55.7 million.

A replacement vessel was used during a shortened season last year as work at a Victoria shipyard and in Richmond continued.

“It has been a much more thorough renovation than originally was contemplated. I think we got a lot more value for it,” Collins said.

“We realized it was not going to be good enough and we completely replaced the interior of the ship. It is on par with any other ship we operate. It is as good as the Northern Expedition and the Northern Adventure.”

Now the 19-year-old ferry has modern, comfortable seating, new floors and galley, and it’s quieter thanks to new sound insulation and has new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. “We got into all the major systems on the ship,” Collins said. That includes steering gear, main engines, pumps, navigation equipment and generators.

“The ship is now very modern,” he said. “All of the systems on the ship have either been replaced or overhauled. So she is going to be a very reliable ship I feel and she’s got basically state-of-the-art throughout.”

It can carry 150 passengers and 35 vehicles.

Collins said the direct service is starting three weeks earlier and lasting three weeks longer this year to help make up for the shortened season in 2018. That adds 10 sailings at the start of the season and eight more at the end.

During the winter, the route is a connector service serving Port Hardy, Bella Bella, Ocean Falls, Shearwater and Bella Coola.

The Northern Sea Wolf is scheduled to be at Bella Bella on Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 11 p.m. and in Port Hardy from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. B.C. Ferries spent $10 million to upgrade berths at Ocean Falls, Bella Coola, Shearwater and Bella Bella. That figure is included in the ferry budget.

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